Easy Driver

It’s time to escape off the island with the family for a weekend getaway. But you can’t face the airports again…this time the road is calling. The tyres are pumped. The tank is (3/4) full. Malaysia here we come!

Under one hour – Johor, Malaysia

Johor has a few hidden surprises for easy family getaways. If you’re a horse rider or keen to give it a try, trot along to Riders Lodge. Their jungle trails, expert instructors and well-kept horses will keep even the most nervous nellies happy. If you’re not keen for the horsey experience, then visit the spa or play golf next door at the Legends Golf Resort.

If relaxing by the pool is more your speed, check out the Mercure Johor Palm Resort. It’s a winner with large rooms and family friendly food, and your bundles of energy will love the adventure playground, bowling alley and bikes. Or take on the the tennis, golf, table tennis, squash courts or spa.

Pop over to Pulai Springs Resort for some poolside and golf action. Green, lush and peaceful.

Under two hours – Desaru, Malaysia

On the eastern tip of Johor you’ll find Desaru, a no-frills coastal resort area (which you can also get to by passenger ferry from Changi Point). Expect clean, white sandy beaches and slightly ageing resorts and you won’t be disappointed.

The Lotus Desaru Beach Resort is our top pick. Kids will love the brand new water park (with a 300m twisty river slide), kayaking, snorkeling, fishing, jet skiing, banana boat rides and kids’ club. Phew. Time for a cocktail.

Or try the Pulai Desaru Beach. Basic but comfortable, and right on the beach, it has a large pool with slide, waterfall, playground and playroom. The kids won’t notice it’s dated…

Nearby activities: Gorge yourself on tropical fruit at the nearby Desaru Fruit Farm. Ride an ostrich (yes you read right) or watch one laying an egg at the Ostrich Wonderland. Marvel at fireflies on a dusk river cruise organised by your hotel.

Desaru is also a bike-riders’ paradise, with good quality roads, very little traffic and rolling hills. And if you’re a surfer, the waves come rolling in during the monsoon season (Dec – Feb).

And a bit of island paradise…under 3 hours – Nikoi, Indonesia

The journey to Nikoi Island is part of the family adventure – ferries, overland on Bintan, and another small boat (pack snacks!) But in the end its worth it. With a kids club, lead by the friendly Yogi, a Pirate filled dress up box, giant sand pits surrounding the stunning beach-hut accommodation, and a beautiful beach, kids of all ages will love this one.